Unwrap the History of Fresh Oranges and Christmas

Unwrap the History of Fresh Oranges and Christmas

It’s that magical time of year again! The weather is chilly, the days are shorter, and the spirit of Christmas surrounds us. We prepare for family gatherings and celebrate cherished traditions together year after year. Did you know there is a fruit that has a special place in our traditions? Fresh oranges! 

The Story of Oranges and the Christmas Tradition

The tradition of hanging stockings near the hearth of the fire dates back to the 1800s. Christmas stockings are mentioned in 1823 in the classic poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” later known as “The Night Before Christmas,” by Clement Clarke Moore

According to some stories, an orange in the toe of a Christmas stocking may be related to the legend of the three balls of gold given by the Bishop of Myra, the real Saint Nicholas. Stories say that in the middle of the night, Saint Nicholas threw gold bags into houses, and one landed inside of a stocking drying near the fireplace. Thus grew the tradition of older family members secretly placing gifts in shoes or stockings for the children as gifts. 

The balls of gold were represented as gifts by the bright, round oranges. The celebrated tradition of Christmas stockings was spreading. Meanwhile, in Europe, citrus fruits were rare and expensive. Oranges were known as an exotic and luxurious treat, making it a perfect holiday gift for the time!

The Christmas orange tradition continued to thrive into the 1900s. In California, 1921, the citrus industry marketed the phrase, “a Christmas orange for the toe of every Christmas stocking.” 

Yet, during the Great Depression, budgets were tight for American families. It was said by Richard Grondin of Medina, Ohio, “An orange was a big thing because you couldn't afford one during the year.” Christmas oranges were once again a special part of the holiday celebration. 

Keeping the Tradition Alive

This year, while you’re shopping, boxing, wrapping, and trying to think of the perfect gift for that hard to buy for someone in your life,  perhaps remember the tales of the humble Christmas orange. Tuck fresh oranges into the stockings at your home, and continue the celebration of our ancestors.

You can add a juicy orange to the stockings, or even a slice of orange in your hot apple cider. The possibilities are endless with the long loved Christmas orange. 

Written by Allie Franconeri 


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